Wet, Miserable California Weather No Fun For Race Teams

Charlotte, NC – Who says it never rains in California?

That?s all it?s done since the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series hit the West Coast last Friday for a triple-header weekend speedfest. Only the Trucks were able to dodge the weather long enough to get their race in as scheduled on Saturday. Rains, which had washed out qualifying for all three divisions Friday, then hit the track Saturday evening drenching the second half of what was to be a Truck/Nationwide Series doubleheader.


The best (worst?) was yet to come Sunday when after seemingly endless hours of track drying and television talking head blather, they almost got the Cup race in late in the day. Starting two and a half hours after its scheduled green flag, the event was slowed by crashes and more weather interruptions before going red for wet weather at Lap 87.

At 2:02 a.m. Eastern Time, NASCAR pulled the plug on the event ? and the Nationwide race that was to follow ? rescheduling the resumption of the Cup race for Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

As a NASCAR team member, this writer can tell you there?s nothing worse than weather delays at the racetrack. Time stands still. The vehicle is ready to race, everybody has done all they can do, and now there?s nothing to do but wait out the weather.

And it?s never comfortable.

While the driver heads back to his/her coach to relax, the team crowds into the hauler lounge. Cards, movies and plenty of chatter help pass the time. Others lay down on the floor of the long main passageway of the hauler, exhausted from the thrash and able to grab sleep anywhere.

Everyone visits the galley, snacking on anything put in front of them. Nobody stays on their diets during rain delays.

Eventually, everyone ventures out of the hauler to make a ?weather check? which, in racer?s lingo, is hitting the head and checking the weather radar on the side of the NASCAR hauler on your way back. When this becomes your primary activity for an entire weekend, it?s not fun.

The folks working the NASCAR events this weekend in California didn?t have fun. They were cold, wet, tired, sick of junk food, and just wanted to go home. The only ones who had it worse were the fans ? those loyal folks that make weekends like the one in California bearable.

When they eventually drop the checkered flag on the Nationwide race Monday (again scheduled after the completion of the Cup event), the fans will go home. The Cup and Nationwide crews, however, will scramble home to North Carolina for a day to work in the shop before turning right around and heading back to Las Vegas for practice and qualifying Friday. A few lucky ones will get to go straight on to Vegas.

The beat goes on. It?s not all glamour and glory. Welcome to the 2008 NASCAR season.

Say What?

The rainy weather allowed the television networks to show off their wares filling long periods of on-track inactivity with information and entertainment.

Here?s some stuff that caught our eyes and ears ?

Prior to Saturday?s Nationwide washout, ESPN?s Andy Petree was asked about skyrocketing costs in racing and what his suggestion might be to curb that. To our amazement, Petree stated personnel costs were the highest line item on a team?s budget and one way to solve that would be for NASCAR to limit the number of people it can bring to the racetrack each week. Cutting back there would help teams financially Petree concluded.

Frankly, we?re not sure how taking away people?s jobs is going to help the sport.

Just where might Andy start with the slashing? Engineers? Probably not. They make the cars go fast. Pit crew specialists? No way. Fans aren?t going to accept 20 second stops by crews populated by overtired team mechanics.

How about the PR and marketing people? Okay, you might be able to get rid of some of these, but somebody still has to sell the sport so teams can attract sponsorship.

Diluting the product to the end user ? in this case, the fan ? by cutting jobs is not the way to save teams money.

Fortunately, Dale Jarrett was sitting next to Petree when he delivered this opinion and quickly stated another way to offset escalating costs was for NASCAR to increase race prize money purses. While spoken like a true driver, someone who always want purse increases, Jarrett was spot on.

Increased purses would help and frankly, given the meteoric growth in NASCAR over the past two decades, prize money hasn?t kept pace with the increased cost of competition. Increased purses won?t solve all team financial ills, but they?ll go darn side father than putting people out of work and watering down the product just so the bottom line looks better.

Open To Interpretation ?

Can?t help but comment on the marriage between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series.

For years, this reporter covered all forms of motorsports, from dirt short tracks to superspeedways. Included in the mix were all forms of open wheel cars. Few event were as exciting as Midgets at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, WI or as interesting as the Indy 500.

It was with great sadness that Indy car racing imploded in this country. Beginning with the rear engine cars that brought an invasion of foreign drivers and equipment into the mix in the 1960s, Indy car racing fractured time and again over the past five decades as factions disagreed over control, money, style and the substance of open wheel racing in America. The results were devastating as open wheel racing lost wide spread public interest, a position they surrendered to NASCAR.

Along the way, they also disenfranchised their USAC farm system losing top prospects and eventual superstars to other divisions ? again mostly NASCAR.

Now, after years of struggling, IRL and Champ Car have decided they need to kiss and make nice. On one hand, I hope they make it. On the other, it?ll be interesting to see if they can.

Notables ?

Mark Martin made his 700th career Cup start at California. Seems like just yesterday we were doing interviews in the front seat of his 1984 Ford cube van hauler at Madison International Speedway.

Congrats, Mark.

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